ceF in vietnam – part 3
more market gazing and fine dining in saigon

October 17th, 2010 · 18 Comments

oh vietnam… don’t make me love you so. the time will pass so quickly and then we will be apart. 

it’s the people. it’s the vibe. saigon has this "thing’ about it. this way of being that has taken me by surprise. amidst the never ending drone of 4 million scooters with a chaotic traffic pattern that somehow moves with a slo-mo ease that feels comfortable, even strangely choreographed – perhaps even enhanced by the the endless symphonic clamor of construction going on everywhere, i feel very peaceful here…

then there are the throngs of people eating, always eating… i’ve never seen so much eating happening – on the streets – everywhere people are cooking. women setting up a little spot with a propane stove and a pan for an egg and some bbq pork with a few customers gathered around sitting on these tiny stools. the local street food scene is astonishing. if only because of the bizarreness of it here in saigon. these are not the carts that you see in thailand, these are people kneeling down and cooking simple food with squirt bottles of chili sauce and fish sauce, everywhere…

westerners are warned off this local food. there is nothing close to any ‘sanitation’ and from what i hear one might tend to come down with nasty gastro issues if one were to indulge… i am fearless in this regards but have so far mostly eaten at the markets where supposedly the food won’t make you ill. for breakfast this morning i chose a stall at random in the middle of the market and had 2 fresh spring rolls and a bowl of noodles with shrimp paste cooked around a stalk of sugar cane and bbq’d pork. 42000 dong. or about $2.25. and it was very good…

i didn’t ask but i’m pretty sure the lower bins are snake… i think everything else was shelled crab, different kinds, different parts

ladies of the tofu

hearts, livers, tongues and something else below the tongues… maybe kidney?

ears and innards…

squid and shrimp and soft shell crabs…

the wonderful herbs that make everything explode into some kind of harmonious cacophony of flavor…

a fish portion of my wanderings…

the garlic, ginger, shallot, lemongrass vendor – way up top towards the center are those tiny little purple shallots that i love

right outside the market… on a quieter sunday mornng

it all comes at you – but gently…

the french were here and it shows…

tonight for dinner i took myself out to hoa tuc, one of the acclaimed restaurants of saigon. for my first course i asked for a half order of one of the salads. spicy char-grilled beef with kumquat, mustard sprouts and white eggplant. the eggplant was uncooked (who knew?) which was a pleasant discovery and the overall dish was just plain excellent. 

for my second course i had bbq fillet of vietnamese snapper with spicy beet root and ginger sauce. on a personal note i liked that they didn’t mess around with trying to make it look like anything other than what it was. which was perfect. 

a glass of torrentes, a small bottle of water and the above was $15. at one of the top rated restaurants in the entire city. my 20 year old server, huon was incredibly sweet and since the night was slow had time to practice her english on me and share that she was sad today because her boyfriend had been caught sitting in a cafe with another girl. she ended it with him and now he is very sorry. on the upside he had bought her an electric fan for the room she rents. i advised her to keep it. we parted friends and i think she was sad to see me go as she walked with me awhile down the street towards my hotel.

perhaps i will visit her again when i circle back around to saigon, if only for the update.

 

Tags: asian · travel

18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 lux // Oct 17, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Mentioning your waitress’ English has me wondering – how are you doing on the language issues? I assume most people don’t speak much English.

  • 2 Pam // Oct 17, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Claudia, I love these updates from your trip, and your photos are wonderful.

  • 3 Jack // Oct 17, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Thanks for treating us to this. So many beautiful photos and I’m loving every detail…

  • 4 Ellen // Oct 17, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    i am loving these vietnam posts. i have always wanted to go, but have held off because i cannot eat gluten. i know the cuisine is based on gluten free staples like vegetables, meat, seafood and rice, but do you know if it would be easy to travel there with dietary limitations? gluten hides in soy sauce and many other places, hence my concern, but i have successfully eaten vietnamese food in places that are careful (and speak english well).

    thanks for sharing!

  • 5 Robert // Oct 17, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    See, that whole food safety thing is so overrated.

    Oh, and just point to the lower bins and say, whatever those are, two please.

    I warned you not to let them fall in love with you…..

  • 6 Melissa // Oct 17, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    So amazing. The food photos are really blowing me away. And I smiled at the conversation with the waitress. Sweet.

  • 7 ethel // Oct 17, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Came home and ran to the computer to see what you wrote. Just find the writing, photo’s and the whole of what you are experienceing so incrediable…. thank you for sharing it all .
    You sure are living your dream.

  • 8 Donna // Oct 17, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    I can relate to Huon—I know how good your company is— Wonderful! Thank you.

  • 9 Leslie Ellis // Oct 17, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    So living vicariously through you and SO learning about doing what you always wanted to do…right now.

  • 10 michael pardus // Oct 17, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    You’re doing great, baby…I forgot about Hoa Tuc…it IS really good – especially the salads. I think the “snakes” on the bottom of the seafood stall may be giant sea clam necks or barnacle siphons…either way, they make great sashimi or chowder (or Viet seafood salad with herbs and chilies)…man, I can smell the charcoal, la lot leaves, and nuoc mam from here. I so love Saigon. For shear “funky” though, you MUST go to Cho Lon market – take a Cipro with breakfast that morning and eat everything…Love you.

  • 11 RedMango // Oct 18, 2010 at 6:36 am

    Very nice post!

  • 12 Angela Kaset // Oct 18, 2010 at 7:00 am

    Enjoying this so much, Claudia.
    Pictures are eye-bombs.
    Wish I was there with you.
    Hey, maybe in solidarity I will have pho for breakfast.
    Just kiddin’…. Peanut Butter Puffins.
    Jealous?

  • 13 Paulette... // Oct 18, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Claudia, thank you for the reports! i love your writing style — so close and intimate and just the best details and observations…keep it coming…sounds, looks ,tastes extraordinary…love…

  • 14 Lesley // Oct 18, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Michael’s advice is hilarious. Add a Bactrim, too and go for it.

    Though I need a filter on your photos. *barf* ha!

  • 15 yveala // Oct 18, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    love it, love it , love it all!

  • 16 Chris // Oct 19, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    I am so glad that your server had you to comfort her. Lucky girl…

    I am so sorry that you seem to be having an absolutely miserable time. I’m so proud that you seem to be muddling through. If you need me to, I am happy to fly out to accompany you on your return to us. Just need you get get me that Cathay Pacific ticket and I’ll be there…

  • 17 Jan Edwards // Oct 19, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Claudia!! I’m living vicariously from you! What an adventure you have embarked upon. I love reading about the markets and wonder if those really WERE snake??? Hmmmmm

  • 18 joanie and aaron // Nov 7, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    hi claudia,
    you may be ready to come home, but i’m not sure we are ready for this adventure to come to an end! it has been such an exciting ride and you have made it all come to life!!! cannot wait to hear the details!
    xoxo,
    jy and ay

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